Item description for Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World by Peter Schafer...
Taking a fresh look at what the Greeks and Romans thought about Jews and Judaism, Peter Schafer locates the origin of anti-Semitism in the ancient world. "Judeophobia" firmly establishes Hellenistic Egypt as the generating source of anti-Semitism, with roots extending back into Egypt's pre-Hellenistic history.
A pattern of ingrained hostility toward an alien culture emerges when Schafer surveys an illuminating spectrum of comments on Jews and their religion in Greek and Roman writings, focusing on the topics that most interested the pagan classical world: the exodus or, as it was widely interpreted, expulsion from Egypt; the nature of the Jewish god; food restrictions, in particular abstinence from pork; laws relating to the sabbath; the practice of circumcision; and Jewish proselytism. He then probes key incidents, two fierce outbursts of hostility in Egypt: the destruction of a Jewish temple in Elephantine in 410 B.C.E. and the riots in Alexandria in 38 C.E. Asking what fueled these attacks on Jewish communities, the author discovers deep-seated ethnic resentments. It was from Egypt that hatred of Jews, based on allegations of impiety, xenophobia, and misanthropy, was transported first to Syria-Palestine and then to Rome, where it acquired a new element: fear of this small but distinctive community. To the hatred and fear, ingredients of Christian theology were soon added a mix all too familiar in Western history.
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Studio: Harvard University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.19" Width: 6.09" Height: 0.83" Weight: 1.01 lbs.
Release Date Oct 1, 1998
Publisher Harvard University Press
ISBN 0674487788 ISBN13 9780674487789
Availability 0 units.
More About Peter Schafer
Peter Schafer is Professor of Judaic Studies at Freie Universitat Berlin, Institut fur Judaistik.
Reviews - What do customers think about Judeophobia: Attitudes toward the Jews in the Ancient World?
Well written, but has an agenda Apr 17, 2008
The author places the roots of classical anti-Semitism in Egypt, and although the texts he quotes are mostly in Greek, he clearly points the finger at the Egyptian natives, not the colonizers, as the source of the prejudice. The first pogrom against a Jewish community in the diaspora occurred in Egypt in the 5th century, when a Jewish place of worship was burned down in a riot instigated by Egyptian priests assisted by renegade Persian overlords. Five hundred years later in Alexandria there was another pogrom, destruction of synagogues and Jewish homes and property, and herding of Jews into a ghetto, by native Egyptians with the support of renegade Greek overlords. The author recognizes that there are anti-Semitic passages in the Roman authors too, but says the situation there is more "complex," and not as serious. In my view, the author places too much weight on the niceties of specific texts, and ignores the fact that those renegades responsible for the pogrom in Alexandria were executed, while in pagan Rome within two centuries two official decrees exiled either the entire Jewish community in the city or significant parts of it. Which is more anti-Semitic, an official decree that exiles an entire community, or a riot by renegades that meets with severe official punishment? The responsibility for anti-Jewish agitation in the ancient world is wider than the author wants us to believe. Nevertheless this is a well written book by a scholar of Judaism with a bent for classical languages that is unusual in this field.
some interesting and fun facts Jan 24, 2001
This book taught me a bit about ancient Judaism and how gentiles related to it. I didn't know, for example, that there was an Egyptian spin on the Exodus (that the Jews were Egyptian "undesirables" who were driven out because the other Egyptians couldn't stand them); just knowing this proves that SOMETHING happened between the Jews and Egyptians 2300 years ago. I also enjoyed reading about what the Romans thought of the Jews (surprisingly favorable, despite the ugliness of the Imperial response to Jewish rebellions).
No student of this topic Aug 4, 2000
This is the first time I've read any text on this topic, so I'm no scholar on the subject. The book is written in formal, but accessible language. (( I admit with chagrin that I was 3/4 of the way through the text before I realized that when the author said that "Jews proscribed intercourse with non-Jews" he meant SOCIAL intercourse! It gave a slightly different sense on the second read!)) I found it a good, though somewhat dry read, and especially enjoyed the insights offered by the author's comparison of several ancient cultures and the re-introduction to ancient philosophers whose names are better known for their contributions to western culture than for their attitudes toward Jews.